The legislation and complexities around the issue of teeth whitening and solution concentration have been taxing us for a few years. In December 2007 an opinion from the independent EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) on the safety of teeth whitening products made it clear that, for products between 0.1% and 6% hydrogen peroxide or equivalent, a clinical examination is needed before teeth whitening takes place and that the amount and volume of the product dispensed must be controlled.
From 31 October 2012 the government has basically fallen into line with this EU directive. This means that:
Products containing more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide cannot be provided direct to the consumers or public.
Products containing between 0.1% and 6% hydrogen peroxide can only be sold to dental practitioners.
These products can only be made available to patients following an examination – by definition that would be a clinical procedure which would have to be undertaken by a dentist. The first session of whitening treatment should be provided by a dentist, or by a hygienist or therapist under supervision of a dentist after which they can be provided to the patient to complete the cycle of use.
Products containing between 0.1% and 6% hydrogen peroxide should not be used on under 18s.
Products containing over 6% hydrogen peroxide are illegal to use.
Some dentists as an alternative to hydrogen peroxide are using carbamide peroxide and 6% hydrogen peroxide equates to just over 16% of carbamide peroxide.
A lot of the so-called teeth whitening clinics are using products such as chlorine dioxide and sodium perborate. These are not appropriate products for teeth whitening and have question marks around safety attached to them. So with so-called teeth whitening clinics, what we actually have in effect are a group of people who are illegally practising dentistry, selling products that are dangerous for health to a public that is unsuspecting and is looking for what they think is a cheap bargain. Why on earth would people want to compromise their health in this way by using organisations and companies that are providing an service that does not fall within any recognised framework of regulation or scrutiny?
The so-called cosmetic teeth whitening companies try and put forward the myth of greedy dentists ripping off the public claiming that we want to charge anything between £350 and £700 for whitening. Here at Langley Dental Practice we start our teeth whitening prices at just £199 for both upper and lower teeth and this includes a full detailed consultation with an experienced British educated, qualified and trained dentist, somebody who is skilled in the art and science of looking after your teeth – not a “cosmetic technician” or “beauty therapist” or even worse somebody working out of the back of a van who comes to your home. We work to the best standards in a safe, controlled and predictable manner, always putting the patients’ interests first and using the most up to date materials and highest standards of cross infection control. Our practice has to comply with and has met stringent regulations enforced by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in terms of patient safety and quality of care. We also have to provide high standards and meet tough requirements in terms of clinical waste disposal and environmental regulations. All of these regulations carry a financial cost. None of these so-called tooth whitening companies have anything like the same level of regulation and scrutiny attached to them. In fact in many cases they work with no regulation or scrutiny whatsoever.
I am glad that we had last have some clarity and a strong lead from the government around the issue of teeth whitening. We now need strong leadership from the General Dental Council (GDC) at a national level and Trading Standards Officers at a local level. I continue to support the GDC position that illegal teeth whitening by non dentists is a criminal offence. I hope we see further action from the GDC including some very public prosecutions. I welcome the latest government guidelines and hope that these can give local Trading Standards Officers a strong lead with which to enforce good safe regulations around teeth whitening for public protection.